Sample some of the best American films over the past 25 years and there’s a good chance Mike Medavoy played a role in the success of many of them. From agenting to studio chief, he has been involved with over 300 feature films. Medavoy began his career at Universal Studios in 1964. He rose from the mail room to become a casting director. In 1965 he became an agent, working at General Artist Corporation and later as vice president at Creative Management Agency. Joining International Famous Agency as vice president in charge of the motion picture department in 1971, he worked with such prestigious clients as Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, Terrence Malick, Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland and Gene Wilder, among others. United Artists brought him in as senior vice president of production in 1974, and he was part of the team responsible for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Rocky, and Annie Hall, which won the Best Picture Oscars over three successive years.
In 1978 Medavoy co-founded Orion Pictures. During his tenure Platoon, Amadeus, RoboCop, Hannah and Her Sisters, The Terminator, Dances with Wolves and The Silence of the Lambs were released. In 1990, after 12 fruitful years at Orion, Medavoy became Chairman of TriStar Pictures. Under his aegis, critically acclaimed box office successes, Philadelphia, Terminator 2: Judgment Day (with Carolco), Sleepless in Seattle, Cliffhanger (with Carolco), The Fisher King, Legends of the Fall, and Steven Spielberg’s Hook debuted. Of all the films he has been involved with, 16 have been nominated for Best Picture Oscars and seven have won.
Medavoy has made a mark not only within his industry, but in his community as well. He has received numerous awards including the 1992 Motion Picture Pioneer of the Year Award, “Career Achievement” Awards from both UCLA (1997) and the University of Central Florida (2002) and the 1999 UCLA Neil H. Jacoby Award, which honors individuals who have made exceptional contributions to humanity. In 2001, he received the inaugural Fred Zinnemann Award presented by the Anti-Defamation League and in 2002 received the Israel Film Festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Extending his involvement in the community, Mike was appointed to the Board of Directors of the Museum of Science and Industry in Los Angeles by former Governor Jerry Brown and was appointed by Mayor Richard Riordan as Commissioner on the Los Angeles Board of Parks and Recreations. He’s a member of the Board of Directors of the University of Tel Aviv. He also serves on the Board of Trustees of the UCLA Foundation and is a member of the Chancellor’s Associates, the Dean’s Advisory Board at the UCLA School of Theatre, Film, and Television, the Alumni Association’s Student Relations Committee, and is Chairman of the Leadership Circle for UCLA’s Center for International Relations. Medavoy is also a member of the Baryshnikov Arts Center Advisory Committee. The BAC is an international center for artistic experimentation and collaboration, providing unique opportunities for the professional development of emerging and mid-career artists from around the world and across disciplines.
In 2002, Gov. Gray Davis appointed him to the California Anti-Terrorism Information Center’s Executive Advisory Board. In addition, he is Chairman of the Group Theatre Society, as well as one of the original founding members of the Board of Governors of the Sundance Institute and is currently serving as co-chairman of the American Cinematheque. Today, as chairman and co-founder of Phoenix Pictures, Medavoy has brought to the screen The People vs. Larry Flynt, Apt Pupil, The Thin Red Line, Dick, Urban Legend (I & II), and The 6th Day, among others. The Thin Red Line was nominated for seven Academy Awards, received five nominations from the Chicago Film Critics, won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival and five Golden Satellite Awards, a cinematography award for John Toll from the ASC and nominations from the DGA and WGA for Terrence Malick. In 2003 Phoenix Pictures released Basic (starring John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson, directed by John McTiernan), and Holes, based on the Newbury Medal-winning bestseller by Louis Sachar (starring Sigourney Weaver and Jon Voight, directed by Andrew Davis), which will be released in March and April, 2003, respectively.
In 2002, Simon & Schuster published Medavoy’s best-selling book, “You’re Only As Good As Your Next One: 100 Great Films, 100 Good Films and 100 For Which I Should Be Shot”. Medavoy has also been active in politics. Among others, he actively participated in President Bill Clinton’s election campaign in 1992 and his successful re-election effort in 1996.
In 2004 he received the Louis B. Mayer Distinguished business Leader Award from Florida Atlantic University. He also serves on the Board of Advisors of Harvard University Kennedy School of Goverment. He is currently serving as Honorary co-chairman of the American Cinematheque. In 2004 he produced John Boorman’s In My Country and Stealth, directed by’Rob Cohen (I)’, and All the King’s Men (2005), written and directed by Steve Zalian. In 2007 he received the Stella Adler Actors Studio Marlon Brando Award. In 2008 he was awarded Lifetime Achievement Awards from both the Jerusalem Film Foundation and the International Student Film Festival Hollywood.
Mike was born in Shanghai, China, in 1941 and lived in Chile from 1947 to 1957. He graduated with honors in History from UCLA in 1963. He is married to Irena Medavoy, a founder of Team Safe-T and a charity executive and fundraiser for the Industry Task Force. Irena is also a national finance chair for Senator Obama. Medavoy has two sons, Nicholas and Brian Medavoy, and resides in Beverly Hills, California.